Article

Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 229-243

Face, Honor and Dignity in the Context of Colon Cancer

  • Miles LittleAffiliated withCentre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney
  • , Christopher F. C. JordensAffiliated withCentre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney
  • , Kim PaulAffiliated withCentre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney
  • , Emma SayersAffiliated withCentre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney
  • , Dhananjayan SriskandarajahAffiliated withCentre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney

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Abstract

Illness narratives from patients with colorectal cancer commonly record patterns of change in social relationships that follow the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. We believe that these changes are best explained as a process of facework, which reflects losses of face on the part of the patient, and which assists in the creation of new faces that convey new senses of identity. Facework is familiar in the work by E. Goffman (1955) and has been extensively reworked since his time. There is considerable agreement that face is a pervasive and universal constituent of all social interaction, and that it expresses the subject's view of the way he or she would like to be considered by others in interactions. Ho's concept of multiple faces negotiated dynamically according to social context is particularly useful in understanding the purpose and techniques of facework (D. Y.-F. Ho, 1994). We propose a model of face that uses dignity as the face-expression of personal attributes and acquisitions, and honor as the face-expression of systemic capabilities and attainments. This model can be used to examine individual variations in response and adaptation to colon cancer and its treatment, and it provides a useful means of teaching health care workers about the experience of illness.